Feral animals boom in urban areas across south-east NSW after last season’s bushfires | Ralph-Lauren

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Landholders and local organisations across south-east NSW say there has been an increase in sightings of feral animals in urban environments since last season’s bushfires.

The 2019–2020 bushfires burnt more than 5.5 million hectares across the state with the far-south coast and Snowy Mountains region some of the worst areas hit.

Biosecurity officer with South East Local Land Services Dan Biddulph said the environmental devastation was a major contributing factor to the current emerging pest problem in the region.

“We’re certainly hearing reports of more deer, for example, and wild pigs,” Mr Biddulph said.

“Fires have pushed them all the way to the coast and we haven’t really seen that before.”

Feral deer infiltrate paddocks across south east NSW
Local hunter David Jansen says most feral animals have been pushed out of burnt forest areas and have begun populating more semi-rural and urban land.(Supplied: David Jansen)

‘Paddocks chewed up’

Deer and wild pigs often have detrimental impacts on local native fauna and can add significant grazing pressure to agricultural land.

Invasive species supervisor and senior biosecurity officer at Eurobodalla Shire Council Paul Martin said the combination of drought, last season’s bushfires, and more recently heavy rainfall has made the feral animal population spike, particularly on agricultural and peri-urban land.

“When the fires hit, their resource base in the bush dramatically reduced and that forced them into more peri-urban areas. Then we had the rain, which increased the soil’s fertility,” Mr Martin said.

Two men working on field and surveying invasive species
Council’s invasive species officer Paul Martin says the region has seen an influx of wild pigs and deer to urban areas such as Batemans Bay.(Supplied: Eurobodalla Shire Council)

David Jansen has hunted feral animals across the south coast for more than 15 years and said he noticed a significant drop in feral animal numbers across state forests and private land since the bushfires.

“After the fire went through it left them nowhere to inhabit where they couldn’t be seen,” Mr Jansen said.

Control programs underway

The problem has been felt by many NSW jurisdictions with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) removing more than 35,000 feral animals across the state in 2020.

A spokesperson for NPWS said the organisation had undertaken the largest feral animal control program in the agency’s history since the 2019–2020 bushfires.

“Operations in the NSW southern ranges and south coast include a combined 514 hours of aerial shooting and 6,126 kilometres of aerial baiting lines,” a NPWS spokesperson said.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has released mapping data that indicated feral deer have moved into new areas since the black summer bushfires.

“Feral deer populations have continued to expand and occupy an area covering around 22 per cent of the state, up 5 per cent from 2016,” a spokesperson for the DPI said.

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